Sunday, November 4, 2018

What is Giftedness and How to Get It

My favorite reader, Anonymous, left a great comment on last week's article. I encourage you all to read it. In this article, I'm going to describe how I define 'giftedness' and how I go about imparting it on other parents.

Here's the long term equation for giftedness:

Intelligence + Will + Interest = Your Child's Academic Performance

This equation was reported by David Lohman in a few of his papers. David Lohman is my hero for not his role as current author of the COGAT, but making all of his work publicly available so I could put the pieces together and defeat his test.

Next, take the classical education, which worked well for about 2,500 years until people started mucking with education. Here is an even briefer summary of Jessie Wise's brief summary in The Well Trained Mind. The classical education, as far as I can tell, mainly involves lots of reading and Jessie's daughter Susan ended up teaching literature at a university. I had to modify it a bit for math but I used the same formula.

  • Memorize everything from age 6 until about 4th grade.
  • Learn to think until high school.
  • In high school, learn to critically analyze literature and begin forming opinions.
  • In college use your emerging expertise in opinionationizing to choose a major that offends your parents.

In order to inject 'giftedness' into the classical education, I added a new step ahead of the traditional definition that begins at age 4.0 and overlaps step one above until about 6 or 7 years old depending on when you start. It is a combination of Jim Trelease's reading advice and Lohman's COGAT, going overboard on phonics and vocabulary, again taking Lohman's advice about how to pass the COGAT very literally.

  • Do phonics and get 1,000 books from the library. I took all phonics from pre K to 2nd grade, math vocabulary through 2nd grade, and packed it into Pre-K Phonics and Conceptual Vocabulary.
  • Master the COGAT. This was really hard at first (like before age 4), so I created Shape Size Color Count as sort of a pre-test-prep book. Still paying dividends.
  • Give your child a piano or keyboard, Piano Adventures, and ask him to teach himself piano.
  • Using Vocabulary Workshop + Pre-K Phonics, we kept the Word Board going until vocabulary was memorized on sight.
  • Test Prep ended right on schedule during Christmas break of Kindergarten. We used about a half dozen books from my curriculum page for the core curriculum with others as supplements. We started math with some counting (up to 5) and then jumped into Every Day Math Student Journal 1 for Grade 2.
Tiger Mom 2.0

Everything reading related was quality parent child time. There were some challenging moments with phonics (the word CAT for example was hell and took 3 weeks), but anything vocabulary related turned out to the the fun part of the week. This is where most of our time was spent, sitting with books deciding how many words my child would read (3) and how many I would read (the rest) on the next book, or standing at the Word Board acting out what the word 'mute' means while I keep asking a silent kid until we both break out laughing.

Math had its share of tears - not because I expect achievement. There were tears because I was content with my children spending 30 minutes figuring out a problem and explaining it to me than spending 2 minutes just telling them how to do it. When I say the word 'math', it means actual math or it means anything in the test prep curriculum that I list on this website on the curriculum page on the right. It's not about learning anything. It's about learning.

Working on cognitively challenging material taxes the brain. In fact, I expect during the new classical education step, a child's got about 15 minutes of quality thinking each day, maybe 4 or 5 days a week. I don't ask for a correct answer - or any answer for that matter - but we aren't going to stop until the brain is out of gas.

In the comment, Anonymous mentions the 10,000 hour rule. If I add up all of the cognitive skills training, including math, we're at about 250 hours over a two year period plus a lot of reading. The quality of these 250 hours varied from getting all 5 problems wrong to getting 2 or 3 out of 5 right.

If you visited my house during our cognitive skills training, you would think that I had very low standards and we were not learning anything at all. You would be 100% correct.

This website is about the 'intelligence' part of the equation above. Will and Interest are covered in the other blog. Your child's hard work in teaching himself goes part way toward 'will', but by 4th grade you still have most of the work to do. All of that reading lays the ground work for 'interest', but again by 4th grade you have to work really hard as a parent to stay out of 'interest' or you'll ruin it.

The new version of the Tiger Mom expects work every day toward our goals, but doesn't really care what the result is. The result takes care of itself. The result is way beyond expectations, so why push it?

The definition of gifted

Almost every state has a similar definition of gifted. A gifted child, per definition meets two criteria. The first criterion is that they learn quickly, independently, and would be bored in a classroom teaching material the gifted child already knows. The second criterion is that the gifted child scores at 98% or higher on a test that measures the academic and thinking skills that produce a child capable of learning quickly and independently.

Therefore, the path to giftedness is pretty straight forward. Teach the skills that the test is measuring.

When I started this research, every single book, paper, article, and pamphlet on giftedness said that it is genetic, at least in part. I have proven that it is ZERO percent gifted and can easily show that only bad logic and ignorance can ascribe cognitive skills to genetics. Even for those at the 99.9999% level with parents who never graduated high school.

So we're down to about 250 hours of investment to set your child on the right path to giftedness. If it's just the test you're worried about, you might be able to get to 95% in about 6 to 8 weeks and 100 hours, but only if the cutoff is lower, and you still have the rest of the work to do or they'll have a really hard time in their new program.

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